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PARKER, JOSEPH (1830–1902), congregationalist divine, born at Hexham on 9 April 1830, was the only son of Teasdale Parker, a stonemason, and deacon of the congregational church, by his wife Elizabeth Dodd. His education at three local schools was interrupted at fourteen with a view to his following the building trade under his father; he soon went back to school, and became teacher of various subjects, including Latin and Greek. Though he taught in the congregational Sunday school, he joined the Wesleyan body, to which his parents had for a time seceded. This led to his becoming a local preacher; his first sermon was in June 1848. The family returned to Congregationalism in 1852, and Parker, having obtained a preaching engagement from John Campbell (1794–1867) [q. v.], of the Moorfields Tabernacle, left for London on 8 April 1852. While in London, Campbell gave him nine months' sermon drill, and he attended the lectures of John Hoppus [q. v.] at University College. Soon becoming known as a preacher of original gifts, he was called to Banbury (salary 120l.), and ordained there on 8 Nov. 1853. His Banbury ministry of four years and eight months was marked by the building of a larger chapel, a public discussion on secularism with George Jacob Holyoake [q. v. Suppl. II], and the winning of the second prize (75l.) in a Glasgow prize essay competition on the 'Support of the Ordinances of the Gospel.' In 1858 he was called to Cavendish Chapel, Manchester, in succession to Robert Halley [q. v.]. He declined to leave Banbury till the debt (700l.) on his new chapel there was discharged. The Manchester congregation cleared off this, along with a debt (200l.) on their own chapel. Parker accepted their call in a letter (10 June 1858) stipulating for 'the most perfect freedom of action,' and maintaining that ’the office of deacon is purely secular.' He began his Manchester ministry on 25 July 1858, and for eleven years made himself as a preacher a power in that city, while exercising a wider influence through his literary labours.

In 1862 he received the degree of D.D. from Chicago University, but he first visited America in 1873. In 1867 he was made chairman of the Lancashire congregational union. Rejecting in 1868, he accepted in 1869, a call to the Poultry Chapel, London, in succession to James Spence, D.D. (1811–76). He rapidly filled an empty chapel, instituted the Thursday noon-day service, and conducted for three years an 'institute of homiletics' for the gratuitous instruction of young students in the art of preaching. He had come to London on condition of a removal of the congregation from the Poultry to a new site. After some delay a site on Holborn Viaduct was secured for 25,000l., and the Poultry Chapel sold for 60,200l. Parker meanwhile carried on his ministry in Cannon Street hall (Sunday mornings), Exeter Hall (Sunday evenings), and Albion Chapel (Thursdays). His newly built chapel, called the City Temple, was opened on 19 May 1874, when the lord mayor attended in state; Dean Stanley spoke at the collation which followed.

To the end of his days Parker's popularity never waned, nor did his resources fail. At his Thursday services clergymen irrespective of denomination were constantly seen. William Henry Fremantle (dean of Ripon) and Hugh Reginald Haweis [q. v. Suppl. II] would have preached at these services but were inhibited; a notable address on preaching was given by Gladstone (22 March 1877) after Parker's discourse. In 1880 Parker came forward as parliamentary candidate for the City of London, with a programme which included disestablishment and the suppression of the liquor traffic; on the advice of nonconformist friends the candidature was withdrawn. In 1884, and again in 1901, he was chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales. Visiting Edinburgh in February 1887, he delivered an address on preaching, and preached in various churches, including St. Giles'. His fifth voyage to America was made in the following August, and on 4 Oct. he delivered at Brooklyn the panegyric of Henry Ward Beecher (d. 8 March 1887), whom he was thought to resemble in gifts, and whose place in America some expected him to fill. In July and August 1888 he conducted a 'rural mission' in Scotland; in May 1894 he addressed the general assembly of the Free Church in Edinburgh, against some phases of the 'higher criticism.' In the following November he protested against the reporting of sermons as a form of literary piracy. 'The Times' of 18 May 1896 contains his letter in favour of 'education, free, compulsory and secular.' In March 1902 he was made president of the National Free Church council. After a long illness in that year he resumed preaching in September. His letter to 'The Times,' 'A Generation in a City Pulpit,' appeared on 22 Sept.; his last sermon was preached on 28 Sept.; he died at Hampstead on 28 Nov. 1902, and was buried in the Hampstead cemetery.

At the City Temple his portrait, painted in 1894 by Robert Gibb, R.S.A., is in the vestry, as well as a bust by C. B. Birch, A.R.A. (1883), in the entrance. Another bust was executed by John Adams-Acton [q. V. Suppl. II]. A cartoon portrait by ’Ape' appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1884.

Parker married (1) on 15 Nov. 1851 Ann Nesbitt (d. 1863) of Horsley Hills; (2) on 22 Dec. 1864 Emma Jane (d. 26 Jan. 1899), daughter of Andrew Common, banker, of Sunderland. He had no issue.

Both by its strength and its freshness Parker's pulpit work impressed some of the best judges in his time. Holyoake, who commends his fairness in controversy, says he 'had a will of adamant and a soul of fire.' Further, he was a master in the arts of advertisement, and in the power of investing old themes with a novelty which startled and arrested. His writings, embodying much of his own experience, are racy in style and imbued with strong sense. He was a constant contributor to periodicals, beginning with the 'Homilist,' edited by David Thomas (1813–94) [q. v.]; he himself brought out various periodicals, the 'Congregational Economist' (1858), the 'Cavendish Church Pulpit,' 'Our Own,' the 'Pulpit Analyst' (1866–1870), the 'City Temple' (1869–73), the 'Fountain,' and the 'Christian Chronicle.'

His chief publication was 'The People's Bible,' 25 vols., 1885–1895. Other of his works were: 1. 'Six Chapters on Secularism,' 1854. 2. 'Helps to Truthseekers,' 1857; 3rd edit. 1858. 3. 'Questions of the Day,' 1860 (sermons). 4. 'John Stuart Mill on Liberty: a Critique,' 1865. 5. 'Wednesday Evenings at Cavendish Chapel,' 1865; 2 edits. 6. 'Ecce Deus . . . with Notes on "Ecce Homo,"' Edinburgh, 1867; 5th edit. 1875. 7. 'Springdale Abbey: Extracts from the Diaries and Letters of an Enghsh Preacher,' 1868 (fiction). 8. 'Ad Clerum: Advices to a Young Preacher,' 1870. 9. 'Tyne Chylde: My Life and Teaching,' 1880; 1886 (an autobiographical fiction). 10. 'The Inner Life of Christ,' 3 vols. 1881–2; 1884 (commentary). 11. 'Weaver Stephen,' 1886, (a novel). 12. 'Well Begun: Notes for those who have to Make their Way,' 1894. 13. 'Tyne Folk,' 1896. 14. 'Gambling in Various Aspects'; 5th edit. 1902. 16. 'Christian Profiles in a Pagan Mirror,' 1898. 16. 'Paterson's Parish: A Lifetime amongst the Dissenters,' 1898. 17. 'The City Temple Pulpit,' 1899. 18. 'A Preacher's Life,' 1899 (autobiography). 19. ’The Pulpit Bible,' 1901, 4to. 20. 'The Gospel of Jesus Christ,' 1903; new edit. 1908 (posthumous sermons).

[Marsh's Memorials of the City Temple, 1877; Men and Women of the Time, 1899; A Preacher's Life, 1899 (portrait); A. Dawson, Joseph Parker, D.D., Life and Ministry, 1901; W. Adamson, Life, 1902 (nine portraits); The Times, 29 Nov., 1 and 5 Dec. 1902; G. J. Holyoake, Two Great Preachers, 1903; J. Morgan Richards, Life of John Oliver Hobbes, 1911; G. Pike, Dr. Parker and his Friends, 1904.]

A. G.